Category Archives: Blog
As I type this, I should be in the Lake District, however due to a series of issues with my camper van I scratched that and spent the last couple of days turning the vegetable patch, doing daddy taxi service, planting onions and a variety of garlics and also going for the occasional short walk. Enough about how I roll, you’re here the photography.
Today I visited a wood I haven’t visited before, its nine minutes from my home, its still inside the Sheffield City boundary, though not that far from the Peak District (about 50 yards!) and it was lovely and quiet. The wood was a bit of an odd choice, as its a pine wood This is the time of year that I should be chasing down the last of the colour in the broad leaf woods in the Peak District, having not had much in the way of opportunities this Autumn to get out. That said, I felt like a change, and having taken a long detour on the way home, there are still patches of colour in the woods in the more sheltered parts of Sheffield and the Peaks which should stand me in good stead for next weekend.
It was good to be challenged by a new location that I wasn’t familiar with. The wood also was blessedly quiet and still, so it was ticking my boxes a lot. The only complication at times was that it was rather sunny first thing this morning, but that issue soon sorted itself out With the low Autumnal sun, it make for some interesting light when it did shine.
In my wanderings I came across some interesting graffiti cellophaned between the trees, off the beaten track and out of sight of any path – so unless you knew it was there or were like me wandering you’d never see it. Quite interesting and very slightly erotic.
On the whole a very productive day, with a goodly number of rolls of 120 shot, including an old formulation Velvia 50 courtesy of Tim Parkin.
I had a quick wander (accompanied by the kids) through Bolehill and Padley Gorge today. A lot of the trees are bare now, but there is still a lot of colour to be making do with. Bumped in to Mr Chinnery for the first time as well.
Here are some quick sketches from the day.
I did try and post this on Facebook, but the colour graduations (is that the right word?) are that gradual that the image appeared very blocky/pixelated. So here is a Velvia 50 taken at Clumber Park of something that is not a million miles different to what I took on my Canon G15. I think the key difference is that there is less noise (and lots more dust and dirt marks!).
Got up early today to go to Clumber Park, having missed out on the chance last week to go with Rob Knight, Andrew Atkinson, Ian Burton, and Damien Taylor, due to Thing 1 having a rugby match in Doncaster. However today addressed that. I took a fair number of “sketches” and quite a lot of rolls of film – I’m still persevering with Portra 160 (at least until my stock runs out), so was trying out a different approach – unfortunately I left my note book at home, so there will be a lot of guess work when it comes to what worked and what didn’t. I am happy to report that it was very misty at Clumber Park today
The below are all hand held sketches taken with my Canon G15 during my short walk around Clumber Park (so they are a bit noisy) – I’m sure it took me five hours to cover about 2 miles. Starting with the lake I moved on in to one of the many woods that are in Clumber Park, but it was still close enough to the lake that there was some residual mist to add drama to some of the scenes. They aren’t the best of shots, but I hope it conveys a sense of the place.
Autumn is definitely on the way. It might still be unseasonably warm, but the colour in the trees is starting to change, and opinion amongst some on Twitter is that when the temperature drops we will get a very quick Autumn – which may possibly scupper my plans for a long weekend in the Lake District in November. So with an eye on the colour, I’m keeping my plans flexible (and the camper van fully stocked!)
Here are some recent Peak District sketches from a new place that I found via Google Earth in the Peak District that is only about a 20 minute drive from my house. Its a lovely spot with a pond and plenty of oak, I’m quite looking forward to exploring it further once the colour in the Peak District starts to change a bit more.
As some of you may know I have been working for just over a year now on my pinhole photography project called “Ties to the Land“. I’ve been working in the background on two books related to the project, the first an ebook and the second a handmade book of about 10 photographs from the project. After months of procrastination and a little prompting I have now produced the ebook of the photography project for free download from http://tiestotheland.co.uk/downloadable-ebook/.
I hope you get the chance to download it and have a look at the first 24 photographs from the project?
I’ve managed to get out around the Padley Gorge/Bolehill area twice in as many weeks. Which is good. Unfortunately, as is becoming the way, the big cameras didn’t come out, so I will have to make do with these little sketches. You can certainly tell that Autumn is coming.
I’ve had a fairly productive time of it pinhole photography-wise. Whether it all works is another issue all together though! (This is particularly true of my infra red pinhole photography, were I attach to the front of my camera the IR filter, and it doesn’t always work).
Back in May, on a very wet Sunday morning I met Alex Howick from BBC Radio Derbyshire to talk about pinhole photography. It was so bad, that for the sake of speeding things along I switched to Ilford HP5, an ISO 400 film, instead of persevering with Pan 50, which is a much slower film (and the exposure would have taken for ages….). In the end, the exposure below was 15 seconds. You can hear my interview from 11 minutes and 20 seconds on https://soundcloud.com/alexhowick-1/oldfashioned . It was great to have chat and share my enthusiasm for pinhole photography, so much so, that I think I went on for about 40 minutes!
For our holidays this year we took Diggy our trusty campervan to the Outer Hebrides. The Outer Hebrides, of Canna, North and South Uist, Benbecula, Harris and Lewis have always been a place I have wanted to visit having been on exercise with the TA on Lewis and Harris in my late teens.
The islands are a step back in time, a slower pace with of life. Not the way of life sketched out in Paul Strand’s “Tir A’Mhurain”, but still not that far removed; the peat is still cut for the hearth and shops are still shut on Sundays. Many people still own and manage crofts, which are traditional small holdings, others are left to become derelict.
The geography of the islands is varied from the open space of the Uists, to the almost Scandinavian feel of Harris to the more recognisable Highland look of Lewis.
Some of these images work, but a lot don’t and I don’t know why. I was particularly disappointed in my Callanish shots, as it was for me the highlight of the visit (despite the surprising crowds). Nor do I understand why the “croft” picture worked, but the “cottage” picture didn’t, despite being on the same roll and taken minutes apart under the same light. As mentioned I rubber band my filter to the camera, but I’m looking at buying a smaller filter that I could fix/wedge/bluetac inside the camera box behind the aperture – that way all light will come in via the filter and I won’t have to faff around with keeping the filter in place – which might mean for a more even negative.
The highlight of the trip photographically was that of an abandoned croft on Skye near Staffin. The horse just makes this photograph, and I have to say I think it is my best pinhole photograph to date and it compliments my Ties to the Land Pinhole Photography project well. I think I just need to have horse with me for every shot I take now Also, for this shot, I switched to Ilford Delta 100 a finer grained film, which may (or may not) have had some bearing on the outcome.
What are photography sketches?
It is something that I struggle with defining, though I do admit to doing it myself (see my previous post). I may ramble a bit, so I apologise now, but please bear with me.
Film photography for me is about slowing the process down – particularity when (like me) you start to wander in to the realms of medium format and now large format photography. That process is slowed down further once you start to get all your kit out; tripod, lightmeter, cable release and pour a cup of coffee.
As a photographer whose main medium is film, for me sketching is going about using a small compact (I use a Canon G15 or indeed my phone) taking photographs of things that interest me without having deploy in to action my heavy weight kit. My sketches are primarily for reference to come back to a location if I have ease of access to a place and know that I can return. particularly if I can visualise a shot, but the conditions aren’t quite right.
Photography sketches are also useful if you are just playing around and don’t want to waste film on something if you are experimenting. You get to see the results in camera, or at home on your PC without the extra “anticipation” of film whilst you wait for the film to be developed. Importantly too, photographic sketching allows for a degree of spontaneity that you don’t necessarily have with larger cameras and equipment (film or otherwise), the Uist shots above, must have been taken in less than 10 minutes.
I purposefully went for a walk on my recent holiday in the Outer Hebrides just with my compact camera to see if I saw things differently without being incumbered with my full kt. Not quite sure if I took anything that different, but I did take more photographs than I would normally. Also, I took less time I feel than I would if I took my full kit with me. Putting set up times to one side, I also tend to take my time when composing my shots – sometimes it involves drinking a full cup of coffee between setup and pressing the shutter!
When does a photograph move beyond being a sketch?
A good question and possibly one that I can’t answer.
Okay, I have to admit it; I am a wee bit of a film snob – with no reason I hasten to add. Just look at my portfolio website – www.alastairrossphotography.co.uk - all the photographs on that are film/slide based. I have taken sketches in the past that I have hesitated over and thought “That would really compliment my portfolio”, but then the best that happens is that it gets added to my blog and not the portfolio site. There is no rhyme nor reason, as Canon Powershot G’s are capable little cameras with all the control (and RAW) functionality of a DSLR, so quality isn’t the issue. A3 sized prints are not an issue with the files that they produce and this is where a bit of a reality check is needed for the “serious amateur” (like myself), is anyone really going to see your work at anything bigger than A3? Is it any less of a photograph because it hasn’t been taken on film – “No” – I (think) is my answer.
There is a large element as well, for me anyway, of feeling like a bit fraud when a shot comes out well when seen and taken in seconds as opposed to going through the full physical and intellectual rigor of a “proper” shot that is measured in minutes. It makes me doubt all the times when I have set up, walked and taken in the area, drunk that cup of coffee and then pressed the shutter. Because of that, does a photographic sketch have less integrity? How I address that I do not know, but it is a feeling that nags me now as I type this.
In conclusion, in writing this I think I have started to address in my own head at least from a quality perspective that a photography sketch is no less of a photograph. However, I still struggle to reconcile in my head how something considered in seconds is of equal merit to something that has been given more than a passing thought.
What are your thoughts on this?
Here’s a (very) wee review I’ve done of one of my latest book acquisitions – “The Pool” by Iain Sargeant
I’ve always admired Iain Sargeant’s work from afar – particularly his “Out of the Ordinary” series of personal work that explores everyday scenes of the urban landscape in Scotland, almost reveling (I feel) in the banal, with a recurring theme of loneliness despite the presence of urban life being everywhere. Iain Sargeant’s latest book is called “The Pool” and is quite far removed from “Out of the Ordinary”, as it focuses solely on a pool no bigger than 2m in width not far from his home – as opposed to the wide ranging travels throughout Scotland that are documented in “Out of the Ordinary”.
Iain has chosen in “The Pool” to use black and white (slightly sepia?) and a very shallow depth of field when photographing the environs of the pool. This adds a very abstract element to the images. Its a very mellow book, the sort that I could imagine gazing through on a rainy afternoon with a malt in my hand sat in a bay window, slowly absorbing the nuance that each photograph contains.
The photos, for me, are very meditative in the understated and thoughtful way of Takeshi Shikama’s “Silent Respiration of Forests” and Bae, Bien-U’s “Sacred Wood”, but on a much smaller and more intimate scale. I can’t describe it any better than this – its the sort of photography that makes my chest tighten and pulse go that little bit quicker as I marvel at the thoughtful approach that Iain has adopted when engaging with what is after all, just a pool.
The book is produced by Triplekite Publishing, a double team in the form of photographers Dav Thomas and David Breen and is available from their site. Dav and David have produced a number of niche photography books in the past year, focusing mainly on landscapes. Their book publishing efforts have been complimented recently with their new “bookzine” “Land | Sea”, which show cases some of the talent that the landscape photography community has to offer.